So you want to find something on the Web


There are three ways to find things on the Web.

  1. Enter a URL in the Address/Location bar
  2. Search with a search engine
  3. Happen upon it

Other points

To enter a URL* in the Address/Location bar

*URL = Universal Resource Locator, the official name for a Web address. Example:

  1. Click in the Address/Location bar and delete the current address or double click in the Address/Location bar to highlight the current address.
  2. Enter the new URL in the text area of the box.
  3. Press the [Enter] key or click the Go button on the right.
  4. The Web site you requested will open in the browser, unless the address is wrong or the site is not available.
  5. HINT: The address must be typed exactly. They are usually lower case but they may have upper case letters too.

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Find something with a search engine

  1. Click on the Search button or type in your favorite Search Engine, eg.
    • In IE (Internet Explorer), the Search button will take you to the search engine at and in Netscape, the search button will take you to the search engine at
    • You can also enter the URL for the search engine as in the previous section. Their URL is usually < www.[search engine name].com >, like
  2. When you get to the search engine, enter your search terms (what you want to find) in the text box and click on Search. Be as specific as possible.
    • Most search engines also have an area of Web sites arranged by topic. If you have a general topic, it may be easier to use these presorted links, also called a directory. Yahoo has a very good directory.
  3. You will (hopefully) get a list of results. Review them and click on ones that sound like what you want. You may need to go through several pages of results to find what you want. Click the Back button to get back to the search results list.
  4. Try putting quotation marks around two or more words that need to be together, like "butter churn" or "big brown bat".
  5. If you have trouble finding things with one search engine, you may want to try a different one.

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To happen upon something, go surfing.


  • Start anywhere. The Library's home page has links, or you can start with the Reference Links or the Browser's bookmarks.
  • Keep following links by clicking on them.
  • To backtrack use the Back button.
  • To go back several steps at once use the down arrow next to the back button. This will show you the places you've been. Just click on the one you want.
  • When you find a cool place, you should add it to Favorites (in IE) or the Bookmarks (in Netscape). That way you can quickly get back there.


  • Use the Library's Reference Links as a starting place.
  • At Google, and other search engines, there are buttons to click for help, hints, or advanced searches. Try them when you're ready to learn more.
  • Ask the Librarian for help if you can't find what you are looking for.

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Now that I found information how do I know it's reliable/valid/worthwhile?

Librarian D. Scott Brandt (techman) of Purdue University has a valauble page on this topic.
Sue Beck of New Mexico State University also has a good evaluation site.
The following is synopsis of their information.

There are Five Evaluation Criteria

  1. Accuracy
    • How reliable and free from error is the information?
    • Are there editors and fact checkers?
  2. Authority
    • Almost anyone can publish on the Web
    • Many Web resources not verified by editors and/or fact checkers
    • What are the author’s qualifications for writing on the subject?
    • How reputable is the publisher?
    • Is there an author? Is the page signed? Is the author qualified? An expert?
    • Who is the sponsor? Is the sponsor of the page reputable? How reputable?
    • Is there a link to information about the author or the sponsor?
    • If the page includes neither a signature nor indicates a sponsor, is there any other way to determine its origin?
    • Look for a header or footer showing affilitation.
    • Look at the URL.
    • Look at the domain. .edu, .com,, .org, .net
  3. Objectivity
    • Is the information presented with a minimum of bias?
    • To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?
    • The Web often functions as a virtual soapbox
    • The goals/aims of persons or groups presenting material are often not clearly stated
  4. Currency
    • Is the content of the work up-to-date?
    • Is the publication date clearly indicated?
    • Dates are not always included on Web pages (look at the bottom of the screen)
  5. Coverage
    • What topics are included in the work?
    • To what depth are topics explored?
    • Web coverage may differ from print or other media coverage
    • It is often hard to determine extent of Web coverage

Other problems

  • Search Engines Can Retrieve Web Pages Out of Context
    • Always try to return to the home page to determine the source of information
  • On the Web, distinctions between advertising and information can become extremely blurred
    • Try to determine if advertising and informational content are supplied by the same person or organization
    • The Web has brought infomercial concept to new heights
    • Buyer be ware
  • Software Requirements May Limit Access to Information
    • Full access may require additional software
    • Browsers may alter the appearance of Web Pages
  • Instability of web pages
    • Web pages may move or disappear without notice
    • User may not be able to refer back to a Web page
    • Try to determine the stability of your source

List of Portals/Search Engines

Portals include:

  • an excellent organized compilation of page citations
  • very easy to use
  • gives subject headings so you can browse
  • searches subject and text fields
  • uses boolean strategies

Directories or Hot Link Pages

West Lafayette Public Library Reference Links

Reference Guides at Purdue
St. Joe. Co. Public Library Web Shortcuts

Search engines include:

  • Uses PageRank™ which relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value.
  • Includes a directory
  • Able to search for webpages, images, groups, etc.
  • includes passage in results
  • Rated most relevant results by Internet World
  • includes brief passage in results
  • searches link and text
  • usually quick
  • can also browse
Ask Jeeves
  • Will accept questions
  • searches multiple search engines
  • Has a kids interface
  • Boolean logic is supported
  • large search engine
  • automatic truncation
  • not as useful for multiple word searches
  • includes passage in results
  • ranks results
good for entertainment & pop culture information
Open Text
simple or power search

Copyright © 2005 Nancy Hartman and the West Lafayette Public Library